Are we witnessing a changing of the guard? All evidence now suggests Ireland have usurped England as the new Northern Hemisphere superpower.
On Monday morning, World Rugby will release the latest rankings with one significant change: Ireland have moved ahead of England into second place, just behind the mighty All Blacks, for the first time in three years. In truth, Joe Schmidt’s green machine have been miles ahead for the past 12 months.
It was the men in green who derailed England’s bid for back-to-back Grand Slams in rain-soaked Dublin last March, a 13-9 win that also ended an 18-match unbeaten run. Eddie Jones’s side have struggled for rhythm since.
Ireland have won 11 on the bounce following that ambush at the Aviva Stadium while England face the prospect of three consecutive defeats for the first time since 2006.
Now, Jones has a chance to wreck Ireland’s bid for a first Grand Slam since 2009.
‘They know we’re coming and they’re going to be ready for us,’ said head coach Schmidt, who has led Ireland to their third title in five years.
‘We’ll need our A-game from the start because there’s going to be an extraordinary resolve among that English contingent after those away losses.
There is no doubt that England will come out firing at Twickenham on Saturday after sobering defeats against Scotland and France. Jones is primed to make more changes against an Irish side stacked with pace and power.
Ireland claimed the title in style with a four-try demolition of Scotland. Jacob Stockdale continued his remarkable strike rate with a first-half brace that took the young Ulster wing’s tally to 10 tries in eight Tests.
Stockdale had Garry Ringrose to thank for his second effort, the Leinster midfielder’s brilliant wraparound play with fellow centre Bundee Aki sending Stockdale waltzing over in the corner.
No doubt, Ringrose will be central to Ireland’s cause as they look to make history at England HQ on St Patrick’s Day.